3 Ways to Protect Your Customer Data Across All Your Business Tools

  •    Megan is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com’s platinum membership program helps small businesses grow on the web.

Customer data is one of the most attractive targets for cybercriminals. They can use this information to steal people’s identities, blackmail them, and much more. So if your business stores this kind of data, you need to take measures to keep it safe.

3 Ways to Keep Your Customer Data Safe When Using Third-Party Tools

Your company’s operations would not be possible without certain third-party tools. However, those same tools could be a cybercriminal’s opportunity if you do not follow the below advice.

1. Prioritize Employee Education

Without a doubt, the number one threat to your customer data is the people you employ. It is not hard to understand why. “Hacking” is a complicated task and can be extremely time-consuming.

On the other hand, tricking an employee into facilitating a data breach (also called “social engineering”) tends to be fairly easy.

You are probably aware of phishing and spear-phishing, which are two popular methods of turning employees into accomplices. Of course, there are countless other ways these criminals can secure the information they want.

One way of approaching this problem is to consider the three types of employees that cause breaches. According to WeLiveSecurity, these include those who:

  • Make innocent mistakes
  • Are negligent with their actions
  • Willingly help criminals

Regularly train your employees about cybersecurity so they know how to use business tools without opening your company up to attack. This training should also include what suspicious behavior looks like in fellow employees and how they can report these actions anonymously. These instructions will help curtail the chances of your business suffering because of an employee with criminal intentions. It may even stop them from trying in the first place.

2. Keep Your Information on the Cloud

As counterintuitive as this may seem, your customer data is better off in the cloud than stored on a personal server within your office.

In fact, this is one of the major reasons the cloud has exploded in popularity over the last 10 years.

Instead of shouldering the burden of encrypting the data, building a firewall, and running protocols to protect this vital data, outsource these tasks to a reputable cloud company. Not only will you save money on personnel and hardware costs, you will benefit from much better security, too. This is a cornerstone of any cloud provider’s business plans, so these companies invest more into protection than yours probably could.

3. Use Secure Third-Party Tools to Safeguard Customer Data

Many companies have taken every conceivable measure to protect their data only to sustain a successful hack because of a third party’s weak defenses.

For example, back in 2014, Home Depot suffered a data breach because of a third-party vendor on which they relied. The hackers made away with 56 million credit and debit card numbers, plus 53 million emails.

Third parties were a huge target in 2016 and that trend has continued into this year, as well.

This is why you have to be careful about the third parties your company relies on. Two examples of major platforms that go to great lengths to secure their clients’ customer data include:

Weebly eCommerce – Weebly eCommerce allows business to sell products online while collecting customer information such as transactional history. The online store integrates with major merchant processing companies such as Stripe, Paypal and Authorize.net, which ensures a safe and smooth customer checkout.

Salesforce CRM – Salesforce CRM collects all necessary information about a customer so businesses can effectively sell to them. This makes it a huge target for hackers. Authentication and encryption are done through Transport Layer Security (TLS). They also carry out regular “health checks” on their customers’ network configurations, session settings, and password policies to help identify vulnerabilities before they’re exploited.

GetResponse Marketing Automation – GetResponse Marketing Automation stores customer information along with transactional data like where a customer purchases and how much they spend. The company saves customer data on multiple disks and across numerous servers and executes backups every day. They use the same levels of encryption to protect credit card data as major banks.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, you simply cannot assume that other companies are taking the threats of data breaches as seriously as you do. Their lack of security will most likely turn into your problem.

You Must Immediately Invest in Protective Measures

Nearly 50% of small businesses have been victimized by a cybercriminal, so if you do not think your company is at risk, it is time to reassess.

Fortunately, while it is probably fair to say that your organization will be targeted at some point, if you implement the advice above, you can continue using important third-party tools without dropping your guard.